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LOVE AMONGST RUIN @ THE SCALA, LONDON 09/06/10

‘This multi-faceted rock band promises the crunch of a stone age queen, the crossover appeal of a parkful of linkins and the melodicism of the hardiest fighter of foos. Drop in twists of New Order/Depeche Mode electro-twangle, Can/Kasabian motorika, Cure atmospherics and hardcore Metallica riffage’.

Not too much to live up to then!! New band  Love Amongst Ruin is the brainchild of ex Placebo drummer Steve Hewitt. After leaving Placebo in 2007, 2010 sees Steve emerge in a new role as frontman. The band made their UK debut in early May at Camden’s Barfly, a small intimate venue, and I was all set to review and interview them at this, their second date, at North London’s Scala. It seemed a gentle progression from the intimacy of the Barfly, where Steve had chatted to fans in relaxed manner, to a bigger venue where press were invited to review and ask a few questions.

I had focused my questions on the new band and forthcoming album rather than the past days of Placebo. I always get nervous before any interview, just the general fear of the unknown. After the seeming long walk up the Scala’s staircase to a very dark VIP Bar I found Steve and bassist/guitarist Donneye to be welcoming and friendly. Delving into my bag in the dark I produced my dictaphone. “Ah, slimline” said Donneye. Yes, I explained how reliable it was and how well it picked up. The laws of the universe are such that one should never tempt fate…..best laid plans and all that! In normal, well brighter conditions, I check that the dictaphone is recording periodically. I get quite paranoid at the prospect of it not recording, so I am sure one can imagine how gutted I was, after what I felt was a great little informal interview, to find that the interview contained nothing!  I was on quite a downer but just had to tell myself that I am not the first and won’t be the last. I didn’t want this to taint my perception of the whole night. I began to jot down what I could recall of the interview and to focus on the whole concept of hope which ran as a theme through the band’s name and self titled album.

I had initially asked Steve about the origins of the band’s name, pointing out that it was “Romantic and melancholic but with hope”. Steve explained that 'Love Amongst Ruin' was the album title before the band actually had a name. They had really struggled to come up with a name for the band. Every time they thought they had a name they found it had already been taken. Steve and Donneye had spent a night laughing at titles thrown up by a type of ‘band name generator’.  Eventually it came down to the crunch, literally a “you need a name by Thursday” from their manager.

The element of hope was certainly a factor when I asked what had inspired the album and imminent single So Sad (Fade). Steve continued that it was inspired by the break up of relationships, for him it was a cathartic experience, you could just go away and cry in a corner or do something and move on and that was the only way he knew how to do something, by being musically creative. Donneye joked or maybe through the medium “of dance” whilst feigning some dance moves. I smiled as it brought to mind Jimmy Pursey’s frightening foray into dance on Riversdale.

One thing that did surprise me was Steve’s response when I commented that it was quite a departure for him, from drummer to frontman, had that been something he had envisaged for a long time? The answer was a resounding no! He really hadn’t imagined this at all, it just happened! I was also curious as to whether he ever felt like taking over the drums from Keith, but he was quite content with Keith on drums having himself played on the record and shown Keith everything who had had over a year now to settle in. Donneye pointed out that with Steve being left handed and Keith right, they were like a mirror image. I wondered if either of them got nervous before a show but only Donneye confessed to getting restless and fidgety. Steve did point out that may change in front of larger crowds but there was always the option of downing a couple of drinks. Now that I could relate to!

Would we be seeing more dates like this one before the album release in September? That was a possibility, but a European tour precedes a UK tour around October.  

Whilst doing some research I really had been struck by the warmth and loyal support that was out there for Steve and that it seemed to be a mutual exchange of respect, it was clear that it was important to him. He confided that he couldn’t see any point in having a big ego as as far as he was concerned he was “no better than anyone else”. In terms of who inspired him creatively, Robert Smith and Thom Yorke were high on the list. Others of-course, but damn my memory! As we neared the end of the interview The Who sounded from the downstairs venue…..”and these” offered Donneye. This opened a debate on Led Zeppelin over The who, Steve rooting for Zeppelin. “Who do you like best?” he asked. I had to be honest and say that for me The Who had the edge. Steve laughed and was going to leave myself and Donneye to finish the interview. Finally, was there anything Steve wanted to say?.... “Led Zeppelin are better than The Who”!

I grabbed their autographs for a young lady named Lara who is a big fan before Steve shook my hand and I left the VIP Bar for the cold light of day and the realisation that I didn’t have my interview.

The Scala was crowded and there was a buzz in the atmosphere as people here and there danced or swayed to the support band. Stood at the back of the venue on the raised floor for a better view saw Steve ascend the stairs and pass behind the crowd but no-one seemed to notice, maybe because they were focused to the front, to the stage. I think I expected more of an emo/goth type crowd, but many of them were likely to have matured with Steve who had joined Placebo permanently in 1996. I have to admit that I had really liked what I had heard of LAR so far and was really looking forward to them hitting the stage and was sharing the excitement and anticipation of the crowd.   

Hit the stage they did with the powerful Blood and Earth. This track would have been familiar to many of the fans as there is a rather tasty video teaser available online. Right away the people to the front were ‘rocking out’. Visually one was also struck by the quantity of instruments onstage, three guitars, four including the bass. It all added to the impact of this sensory introduction. Interestingly Steve who is left handed was also flanked by a left handed bass player. 

Next up Steve swapped guitar for tambourine for what has become one of my favourite tracks of the set and forthcoming album, Alone. I have been wandering around quietly singing “I don’t want to be this alone” since that night, the melody stuck firmly in my head. Next up a longer haunting instrumental intro ushered in Heaven and Hell. Yeah, I was feeling the ’twists of Depeche Mode’ and ‘Cure Atmospherics’. Next up came the moving Away From Me. If anyone was still in any doubt, yes Steve can sing! Next up Running.

Steve responded to the audience cheers “You’re all too beautiful, but not quite loud enough”! Louder cheers! The next song Steve dedicated to a good friend, the original Stereophonic’s drummer Stuart Cable who died after allegedly choking on his vomit after a drinking session on Monday. In his words he hoped to “attempt to sing something that would….I don’t know…..lend to his passing”. The song, Oh God, was particularly poignant and emotional.  Steve followed this with “Thank you for your patience, it’s fucking hot, here’s a song called Truth”. The sound had got noticeably louder as the set went on, but I wasn’t complaining. The tempo slowed for Bring Me Down (You Don’t) followed by what is to be their debut single So Sad (Fade). The crowd were familiar with this song and clapped their approval. So Sad isn’t a comfortable song, but I don’t think it’s meant to be. Again Steve thanked everyone for their patience before stating “Back to the rock!’ and launching into Home, a raw song with punch that he growled through before exiting the stage. 

Of-course they weren’t going anywhere without calls for an an encore.  The band returned to the stage, Steve protesting that they were in an awkward position as they were on their first record so had to do “something again” if that was “cool with everyone?”……. So Sad (Fade)… “Enjoy”!

Now I listen to a lot of music, often without realising, unless I particularly like it or hate it. I can listen to a track over and over but may not recognise it the next time it’s played. Only when something is distinctive, original or touches me on an emotional level does it stay with me and make me want to hear it again and again. I rarely buy albums, what with accessibility to music via the internet and copies to burn . Would I buy Love Amongst Ruin based on what I had heard and experienced at this show? I can put my hand on my heart and say yes. It has heart, honesty and integrity, not to mention the one thing that was made clear when I asked Steve how the band came about…...unquestionable talent. There was to be no compromise on that score. Music, like all art, is subjective but I loved the brooding drama and real ‘heart on the sleeve’ grit of the show. If the break up of the relationship that was Placebo lead to Steve taking this path, then I can’t say it was a bad thing. I just hope they will find the time for an in depth, incisive interview in the future.

When the world as you know it comes crashing down around you, when everything feels like it is falling apart, you have to find, LOVE AMONGST RUIN.

The self titled debut album is released on 6th September 2010, preceded by the single So Sad (Fade). The band will be performing a series of UK and International shows before embarking on their debut tour in October 2010.

www.myspace.com/loveamongstruin

Interview & review by Lorraine
Press photo supplied by Chuff Media